As the Kings continue our club’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, our 50 KINGS series continues on LAKings.com…this time catching up with former Kings forward Steve Kasper.
Kasper, a center, was a member of the team from 1988-91, wearing No. 11 The Montreal native joined the Kings after eight seasons with Boston, a team he would later coach.
He scored 17 goals with the Kings during the ’89-90 campaign and he also played in 20 postseason contests with Los Angeles.
He answered these questions from LAKings.com:
Q: What do you remember the most about the three seasons that you played here in LA?
KASPER: “The excitement around the team, it was obviously the Gretzky Era. I think initially I recall just joining the team. The first year in the playoffs we were down three games to one against Edmonton, obviously [there was] all the hype because Gretzky had played in Edmonton, we came back and won that series in seven games. That was probably the thing that stands out the most for me. It was a very exciting time. “
Q: What was it like playing with Wayne Gretzky among others?
KASPER: “Well it was easier to play with them than against them. It was a lot of fun sor sure. They were were not only great players but they were great teammates. They put on an offensive show every night and as a player you had to make sure you didn’t get caught up in all of that, you had to go about what you do and do your job and not become a spectator or a fan. They were great players.”
Q: You played in Boston for the first part of your career. What do you remember about coming to LA for the first time?
KASPER: “Well, you know what, it was a total different game. In Boston we had the old Boston Garden, the ice was smaller. It was only 185 feet instead of 200 feet long and that made for a tighter checking game and a lot of contact. To come out to Los Angeles and play all of your games on a bigger rink, plus to have offensive players like Gretzky and Bernie Nicholls, it was a more wide-open game. Quite honestly, it was a lot more fun to play.”
Q: Growing up in Canada, hockey is obviously a huge part of the culture. Was playing in the NHL always a dream of yours?
KASPER: “I was a big Montreal Canadiens fan. In my teens it was easy to be a fan of theirs because they won four or five cups in a row and one year I think they only lost eight games, which probably will never be matched again. So, you know, I don’t want to say I dreamt every day about playing in the National Hockey League, I wasn’t very big – I’m 5’8” – so everyone everywhere I went everyone always said ‘Oh you’re too small, you’re too small.’ I just enjoyed the game and worked very hard at it, gave it everything I had and so if I didn’t make it I was going to be able to look in the mirror and say, ‘You know what, I gave it everything I had.’”
Q: You were in the NHL at the age of 19. Did you believe you were ready at that young age?
KASPER: “I never gave it a second thought. I celebrated by 19th birthday during training camp and I had a very good training camp. Boston was a great team to go with. Number one, they opened their arms to a young guy. There was no ‘Oh, you’re a rookie.’ They welcomed me right away. The league was a very physical league at the time and for a small player to fit it, I couldn’t have been on a better team. We had a lot of size and a lot of toughness and great teammates. It was just a great support group and they made it a lot easier to play.”
Q: What are some of your favorite memories about playing in the NHL overall?
KASPER: “The biggest one for me that sticks out is in 1988 we [Boston] played Montreal in the playoffs and in the span of 45 years, Boston had played Montreal 26 times and lost all 26 times. But in 1988, we finally ended that streak and the deciding game was in Montreal and I grew up there. I scored two goals in the deciding game and was selected, right or wrong, as the first star of the game. It was just a great thrill to remember that series and that night in Montreal.”
Q: After you retired as a player, you returned back to Boston as an assistant coach before later being a scout. What inspired you to start coaching?
KASPER: “I just love the game, the games been good to me and I felt that I could give back a little bit. I don’t think I made it strictly on talent, I think I had a good work ethic, I took care of myself and I was always prepared to play. Good or bad, I thought I could look in the mirror and say that I gave it everything that I had. I thought that maybe I could take some of that preparation and some of the skills I had and pass them along, help someone else along their way.”
Q: How has coaching and being a scout changed your perspective on the game of hockey?
KASPER: “The coaching helps me in the scouting department because we’re sitting up in the press box and we look at all of the games from up here. It’s easy from up there but you don’t realize the speed of the game, the contact of the game and how much congestion there is on the ice. I always think back to when I was coaching, standing behind the bench and realizing how quick things were happening. I think it give me a pretty good perspective when I’m looking at players.”
Read more pieces on former Kings players as we celebrate our 50th Anniversary: